Sunday, October 26, 2014

More Harvesting

Plot harvest at the NCRS has been a challenge this year.  Wet weather has kept the harvest crews out of the field for extended times.  But the field crop crew has been putting in long days through the weekend.  I went out last Thursday to see what was going on.  Over on Farm 5,  Phil unloads soybeans from a plot into the scaled grain cart.  
Stephanie watches the weight numbers roll up.
 Then she punches the weight into the mounted iPad.  It is linked to the computer in the NCRS office and records the number in the program, so that when the harvest for the test is complete, the data is already summarized.  That is something new this year that will make data summary much easier. Good thing since there are over 1800 individual field crop plots set for harvest in 2014.  (By the way, that's MSU intern Kalvin driving the tractor.  Although I guess his internship is over, so now he is just a regular NCRS researcher.  We are very fortunate that Kalvin was willing to continue working this fall around his busy MSU class schedule.)
Over on the Specialty Crop Crew, Jake and Brian have borrowed a grape press from Kalvin, and go to work making juice from the Concord Grape plot harvest.  I tried it.  It's good!
 Over on Farm 7 there was a sugarbeet experiment being harvested.  Recall that we have six-row plots, but harvest the middle four rows.  Here is what they look like after the topper has removed the...tops.  Why else would it be called a topper?
Now the beet lifter lifts the beets out of the ground.  Why else would it be called a lifter?  The beets are dumped into the tank and there is a scale and monitor that reads the weight for that plot.  Still remarkable compared to the old ways and days when I actually worked there.  Yes it's an old lifter, but it works just fine for these plots.  That's Jeff at the helm of the tractor there.  And Ron on the dump trailer tractor in the back.
Determining the plot weight is just the first step with sugarbeet harvest.  Beets need to be graded for per cent sucrose plus several other quality measurements.  This is how the payment to growers is determined, and these can be affected by fertilizer inputs.  So plot samples need to be collected.  Here Tim collects some beets from the back door installed on the lifter tank.  These will be taken to the Michigan Sugar Company lab for evaluation.  The beets are then unloaded into the trailer there and then dumped in a row along the road for collection to be taken to a sugarbeet piling ground for transport to the sugar company plant.  Tim also punches the weights into the iPad here too.
After all of that, the lifter moves on to the next plot.
Round and round they go.  That's the way all of the field plots are harvested here at the NCRS.  You are usually too busy to get dizzy though.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Next, A Visit to Area Manager: Security Seed and Chemical

So while we were in Nashville, we went up the road to pay a visit to one of AgroLiquid's top Area Managers: Security Seed and Chemical.  They have a number of locations throughout Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.  But their main office is a short drive to Clarksville, TN.  They also have a barge terminal in Clarksville on the Cumberland River.  Here they take in 32% UAN (a nitrogen fertilizer solution) off of a barge in the river and put it in that big 2.6 million gallon tank outside the truck loadout building below.  Johnny Rudolf, one of the founders of Security Seed who was lured out of retirement to manage this facility, gives us the company tour.
This big tank is 3300 feet from the river, seen in the background next to the sign below.  You may be wondering how in the world do they get that liquid N all the way up the hill into this tank.  I know I was.  Well they use air pressure to do the job.  That must be some pump.  Probably would be good for air mattresses too.  Very impressive.  
This facility is open 24 hours a day.  Not that Johnny is here all that time to load a truck.  Here's how it works.  An order is placed into the system, and a tanker driver can come in any time and fill up.  He enters the secret code to open the door, pulls in and goes up the stairs to that controller on the right in the picture.  He opens up the tanker hatch and inserts the hose, enters in a special code for his specific order, and pushes "play", or something similar.  It can load a tanker in ten to twelve minutes, and they have run upwards of 50 trucks a day during busy season.  It has also been a great competitive tool for them.
For further security they have these scary bugs around.  I saw this dead one on the pavement.  It was huge, around 1.75 inches long.  I should have put down a quarter for reference, but it was really big. I had never seen one before, so I Googled it as "big green beetle in Tennessee."  It worked, and told me this is an Eastern Hercules Beetle.  This one is a female since it lacks the "rhinoceros" horns of a male.  Now that would make me not want to go barefooted around there.  
Out back they have the ingredient that makes the 32% work even better. There are several 6500 gallon tanks for eNhance that is blended with the 32% UAN.
How is the eNhance added, you ask?  Well they have these controllers that will add the correct amount to the 32% being loaded.  It is all dictated by the order in the computer.  Pretty cool.  It should be mentioned that this river facility only handles nitrogen and eNhance.  For other Liquid fertilizers you have to go somewhere else.
Next we drove over to Russelville, KY where they have plenty of Pro-Germinator, Sure-K and Micro 500.  They have a rail spur that enables delivery in tankers to keep the tanks supplied for farmer demand there in Kentucky.
This facility is managed by Jamie Dezarn, there in the middle telling about the happenings here.  You may have seen Jamie appear with me on an episode of "RFD-Live" a while ago.  I told Jamie that I visited the new RFD-TV studios in Nashville, and maybe we could be on a future show together.
 Well as Security Seed agronomist Lang French talked to the group, I don't think Jamie was listening.  He was remembering his pre-show make up application from our show before.
Not that I haven't done the same thing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

RFD TV: New Studio Visit

So your AgroLiquid Senior Managers were in Nashville last week for a meeting.  And since we were in the neighborhood, our friends from RFD-TV invited us over to see their new studios.  So we did. It was dark and a little confusing to find, but we did. It seems that the Northwood Studios have been sold.  That's where myself and several others have appeared on the wildly successful show "RFD-Live" now known as "Rural America Live."  Well they were leasing space there, but now they will own their own studio.  They found a place that had large studios and lots of room for radio and other things.  It is being renovated and will be completed in the spring.  Here is one of the TV studios.  I strongly suggested that I will be ready for a returning engagement whenever they want.  That's Chief Revenue Officer Brian Hughes in the striped sweater showing us around.
They will now have a large control room to better get close-ups.  Lot's of room here...
...compared to the crowded old place.
There was practically Who's Who of RFD-TV there that evening.  Here is Troy surrounded by a group of RFD's top brass.  That's Brian on the left, then Randy Bernard, CEO of Rural Media Group's Events, Troy, Tim Moen, our sales contact and RFD TV host Mike Hanson, who is also Executive VP.  Mike has hosted one of my TV appearances, and was also at the last Research Field Day event getting video and interviews.  Rural Media Group is the parent of RFD-TV.  Prior to coming here a couple years ago, Randy Bernard was CEO of IndyCar racing and the Professional Bull Riders.  So he knows about big events and he is a nice guy for sure.  Btw: Troy really isn't that short, these guys are all pretty tall.  I don't know if that is a requirement to work here.  But it must help.
So that was fun.  They thanked us for our support and we thanked them for the service they provide as the voice of agriculture and rural America.  So after the exchange of mutual admiration, we left. (But I do hope I can take stage someday here.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vegetable Harvest Continues

The vegetable crew has also been hard at it in the harvest of those plots.  However, unlike the crops crew, this harvest is all by hand.  Like here are all the tomatoes from a plot.  But this is just part of the job as they have to be sorted by color to get per cent greens and reds.  Hard work indeed. Stop by if you ever wanted to be a researcher.  At least you can eat what you pick.  And they still donate picked produce to the food bank as has been done for years.
Here is Jake cutting celery from those plots on Farm 12.  This is the first celery crop grown at the NCRS and it looks great.
Apparently you have to cut the bunches uniformly like you see in the store.  So Brian uses this board contraption to do that.
The apple coloring applications still are intriguing. I pointed out in a previous blog post that the leaves will sometimes prevent uniform coverage of the nutritional spray application.  Here is a view of what the Honeycrisp variety apple looks like sprayed and un-sprayed. 
Here are some more.  I still think they should try covering up part of the apple with letters to spell out words or phrases.  But some work on improved coverage technique will be done in the future, maybe with some equipment folks.
Always something new and exciting.

Weekend Warriors


So the rainy weather has gotten in the way of soybean harvest, but the past weekend provided some good days to get some harvesting and wheat planting completed.  Stephanie gave me these pictures to show how she spent her weekend.  This view of the combine cutting 30" row beans shows that the border rows are cut first and then the middle four rows are harvested for yield determination.  We always remove border rows no mater the row spacing or crop being harvested.
 Round and round they go.  Here is Stephanie's view from the scaled grain cart following Tim in the combine.  And who is that in the tractor?  Why it's our dedicated CEO Troy.  He was glad for the opportunity to step in and help on the weekend.  He is often seen hiding in the bushes looking longingly at the operation of all the field equipment that he has bought for us.  So occasionally it is good to let him take the wheel. 
 Impending sunset makes for a nice view of finishing up a test on Farm 5.
Sadly the rain has returned on Monday and Tuesday.  But it's good for the wheat.  (Trying to look on the bright side of the gloomy day.)

Research Field Day Plots Give Hint of Best Corn Program for 2015

(Note: The Fall issue of the AgroLiquid Quarterly Newsletter just came out.  However there was an error in my article where for some reason the correct picture was not included in the article.  So my descriptions in the article are not clear for the pictures that were printed.  So here is the article in its original form for those that don't know what I am talking about.  Which is a common occurrence, but this time I had an excuse.)

The recently completed Research Field Days showed AgroLiquid fertilizers in action.  Well maybe action is a little strong, but results of the use of AgroLiquid were clearly on display in many venues.  Take, for instance, one of the research plot stops on Farm 7.  Several different corn fertilizer applications were on display.  There were full rate conventional fertilizer programs for potash/10-34-0/28% plus an all dry treatment.  There was the comparable AgroLiquid treatment along with a treatment with conventional fertilizers, but at a greatly reduced rate of application to closely match that of the AgroLiquid program.  And then there was a nitrogen only treatment, so that the effects of the P and K fertilizers could be measured.  The same treatments were applied last year in this experiment as well, but in the adjacent test to enable a corn-soybean rotation.  On the field day itself, I went into the border rows for these treatments and pulled three adjacent ears as well as some roots that were dug.  They are on display in the picture, along with the yields from 2013 and then the pounds of N-P2O5-K2O for each treatment.  (Note: in the conventional treatments, two years worth of potash is applied after the previous soybean crop for the next year of corn and then the following soybean crop.)

There is certainly a visual difference in the ears. The full rate conventional and AgroLiquid ears are all larger than those of the N only treatment (4).  Furthermore, the ears of the AgroLiquid treatment (5) are also much larger than the low rate conventional treatment (1), even though virtually the same rates of fertility was applied.  So I guess the adage: It’s nutrients, not numbers rings true here.  The nutrient technology used to make AgroLiquid more efficient is clearly seen.  The roots also showed the Liquid advantage for a larger root system to better explore the soil.  Furthermore, the yield in 2013 with AgroLiquid was greater with AgroLiquid vs all programs, but especially vs the equal rate of conventional.  So let advanced nutrient technology be your guide in 2015.  Higher yields with lower rates (more acres planted between fill-ups) and planter applied P and K to save trips.  Of course the plot harvest coming up later will complete the story.  But indications are strong for AgroLiquid.  So when making decisions for next year, don’t cut what is research-proven for higher yield.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Trench Duty

(Note: This first picture is the so-called "featured image" for the agroliquid web site, and I will install it first from now on for the blogger version too.  It's kind of artsy, don't you think?)
 So we started the installation of subsurface drip irrigation on Farm 12 earlier in the summer.  The drip tape was buried in the spring and since then the farm crew has been installing the feeder and drainage pipes, and connecting the tape to them.  I have shown some of it in a previous blog and I always said that I would help.  Well I am running out of time.  I stopped by Tuesday and saw Kalvin and Mitch at work digging and laying pipe.  Truck driver Kevin, on loan from Ashley, and Phil were there as well.  I vowed that I would show up on Wednesday ready to help.  It has been said that I do the work of two men....Laurel and Hardy.
They had it down to a specialized procedure.  The pipe at the bottom of the trench is at the end of the irrigation run.  The tape is on 30 inch spacing, and runs under each row in the field.  Phil assembles and slides the "L" shaped tubes into the drip tape and secures it with wire.  Kevin drills holes in the pipe.  And I had the most important job of fitting the tubes into the pipe.  Well that's what I thought anyway.  The drip tape itself is around 16" or so deep.  This is the view of the tubes awaiting connection.
 Kevin is drilling holes 30" apart as that is the tape spacing.  A crop row is over each tape run, now and forever.  Recall that we use GPS guidance in the field to know where everything is.
I have mentioned that the soil on Farm 12 is kind of unusual for the area.  The soil is classified as a Sebewa Loam with clay loam at 11 inches deep.  The top is black and has high organic matter and the clay is very hard when dry.  So this drip irrigation will help.
Here is a view of a completed section.  We did turn on the water to charge the lines and check for leaks.  There were only a couple that were fixed.  It would be harder when filled in.  In the very top "feature" picture you can see that there are two lines of soil along the trench.  When Mitch digs, he puts a line of the clay soil and a line of the loam soil.  Then it will be filled back in with the proper soil arrangement.  We are here to act in harmony with nature, not to mess it up.
Well we got to the end of the current trench, and Mitch and the back hoe were having issues.  There is still a long way to go, so I guess we will have to do it the old fashioned way.
Well I guess now I can say that I helped.  Things will get back to normal after that, I'm sure.